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Syrian militants set conditions for Homs deal

Foreign-sponsored militants in Syria have set conditions for the implementation of a new deal reached at the Geneva 2 conference, under which the government has agreed to let women and children leave besieged districts of the city of Homs. The Syrian government and the foreign-backed opposition reached the agreement on Sunday. Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN mediator at the Geneva peace talks, said Damascus would allow women and children safe passage from militant-held areas of the city where they have been trapped. "What we have been told by the government side is that women and children in this besieged area of the city are welcome to leave immediately," Brahimi told reporters in Geneva. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said armed groups were preventing women and children from leaving the besieged area of Homs. "I have been personally involved over the past two years to get these women and children out of the Old City of Homs... In all these attempts we have been prevented by the armed groups, who did not allow a single person out," Mekdad stated. Militants operating in Homs called for a complete end to the siege of the areas, which have been under a blockade since June 2012. They also said they want guarantees from the UN or the International Committee of the Red Cross that Syrian forces will not arrest the people leaving the areas. The Geneva 2 conference, aimed at finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis, has been underway in Switzerland since January 22. On Wednesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem expressed regret that some countries attending the international conference "have the blood of Syrian people on their hands." Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since March 2011. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- are supporting the militants operating inside Syria. According to the United Nations, more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the violence



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